Blogging Through Breast Cancer
Young women with high cancer risk and early-onset breast cancer blog their way through diagnosis and treatment with humor, strength, and grace.
Earlier this year, we highlighted a few mental health bloggers on WordPress.com. Many people with health challenges use blogs to vent, commiserate, and inspire — check the diabetes, celiac, or fibromyalgia topics to find networks of bloggers sharing treatment tips, success stories, and more.
Women coping with young-onset breast cancer or with the BRCA gene (the mutation that prompted Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy) are building a particularly robust, feisty community. Here are a few survivors speaking out:
Ticking Time Bombs
Twenty-three-year-old Rachel Horn is already observing the second anniversary of her bilateral prophylactic mastectomy — the complete removal of all her breast tissue in response to testing positive for BRCA. She chronicles the surgery and its aftermath on Ticking Time Bombs:
Along with descriptions of the BRCA genes and resources for women at risk, Ticking Time Bombs walks readers through the entire process of diagnosis, decision-making, surgery, breast reconstruction, and post-op adjustment. Now two years post-mastectomy, she’s as likely to be posting tips for dating post-surgery and roundups of the best bikinis for women with reconstructed breasts as she is to muse on life after a mastectomy.
Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer
Maria Ennis-O’Conner got her diagnosis at age 34. Now physically healthy after nine months of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment, she finds herself struggling to shape a post-cancer identity. Frustrated with the resources she found, she decided to create one — and Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer was born:
On Journeying, Maria weaves together resources to help breast cancer survivors rebuild their lives, from new studies to inspirational tweets, with her own reflections. For real-time conversation, she also organizes the monthly Breast Cancer Chat Europe on Twitter; follow #BCCEU the first Thursday of each month at 8:30PM GMT to participate.
The Risky Body
Another blogger saw a hole in the resources available to women facing difficult decisions about their cancer risks: a lack of critical feminist analysis of treatment and support options for those with the BRCA mutation. She filled the gap with The Risky Body:
Her provocative blog picks apart the economic realities of diagnosis, the troubling messages she sees in initiatives aimed at supporting women at risk, race-based inequalities in treatment, and more. The Risky Body is essential reading for anyone interested in the “business” of cancer treatment from a feminist perspective.
Thoughts from FORCE
FORCE — short for “Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered” — is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the 1,000,000+ women and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancers caused by the BRCA mutation. Sue Friedman, FORCE’s executive director, blogs on WordPress.com:
She uses her blog to advocate for research and treatment initiatives that support long-term health for women with the BRCA mutation, and offers thoughtful analyses of media coverage of BRCA issues and research.
Although a distressingly high percentage of women will face breast cancer in their lifetimes, far fewer are confronted with the risks of a BRCA mutation or early-onset cancer. Blogs give these young women a way to connect with others, learn more about their diagnosis, and create a deep support network.